monitorACT | Edition 1728.03.23
The consumer market constantly changes to remain attractive to its clients. Products can become trendy, objects of desire, or fade away, depending on the time and the strategies adopted to make them what they are. However, it should not be accepted that companies offer products that put consumers' health, the environment, and human rights at risk, besides trying to reject or bar regulations.
This special edition of MonitorACT focuses on the alcohol industry and its intersection with the tobacco and ultra-processed food industries. There is an infinity of old products with new guises and problematic production chains that even include child labour and slavery.
In the article Non-alcoholic drinks, sugar-free sodas, a cereal bar to prevent drunkenness. Does it work?, Bruna Kulik Hassan analyzes the new “healthier life” trend brought on by the sugary and alcoholic drinks industries, which is incompatible with the health consequences caused by their products. The beer industry, for example, now offers products with less carbohydrates, less calories, gluten-free, or non-alcoholic, and has even launched a cereal bar that promises to prevent drunkenness - and these new products have arrived along with powerful marketing strategies, of course. After all, they should become objects of desire, especially for young adults and adolescents.
Mariana Pinho e Victória Rabetim highlight the addictive substances added to these products in From tobacco to alcohol: the power of additives to addict new consumers. Flavoring additives are used to attract new consumers and promote experimentation - and, along with the creation of beautiful and trendy designs for the packages, they are a fundamental part of the strategies adopted by the companies to win over new consumers and make them loyal to their products.
Lastly, we would also like to draw attention to the fact that companies that manufacture harmful products are investing a lot of money in actions to improve their images, something we have already addressed in previous editions. Now, Laura Cury and Vitória Moraes analyze strategies that have no impact on the businesses’ structure, but look good in the photo. Their article, Sankofa: Ambev's beer and the Ghanaian proverb, shows how the new product of the company uses African ancestry to sell. Real structural changes, however, cannot be found.
Enjoy your reading!
Non-alcoholic drinks, sugar-free sodas, a cereal bar to prevent drunkenness. Does it work?
By Bruna Kulik Hassan
The newest trend in the alcohol industry is trying to adapt their products to the search for a healthier lifestyle. For that end, large companies are undertaking huge efforts to create so-called healthier options, many times linking a healthier lifestyle solely to the consumption of few calories.
Considering beers, the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Brazil, innovations include products with less carbohydrates, less calories, gluten-free, or non-alcoholic, along with marketing strategies that associate these products with a healthier lifestyle. Ambev’s Stella Artois launched its gluten-free version in 2020. Heineken’s non-alcoholic beer, also known as “Heineken 0.0”, announced a partnership with Max Verstappen, two-time F1 champion, for him to become an ambassador of the non-alcoholic beer - which, it seems, is also sugar-free. Interestingly, in the company’s website, frequently asked questions about Heineken 0.0 include “’Zero’ soft drinks are sugar-free. Are ‘zero’ beers sugar-free?”
Max Verstappen in a Heineken 0.0 campaign
Still on the trend of promoting healthier lifestyle campaigns, another action by Heineken, named “0.0 Alcohol - 0.0 Barriers”, was performed in Rio de Janeiro in January to reward responsible drivers. During the event, drivers that passed in a tollbooth in Via Lagos Highway with a pack of Heineken 0.0 were exempted from paying the toll.
Among the beverages aimed at young people, the healthier lifestyle trend takes a different path. Other formulations combine alcohol and sugar, as in the ready-to-drink beverages by Beats, from Ambev. The image below shows that sugar is the second most used ingredient in Gin and Tonic Beats, following carbonated water. The ingredients are listed in descending order, according to their quantity.
Source: Pão de Açúcar
Regardless of whether or not they contain sugar, alcoholic beverages do not need to include a nutritional information table on their labels, as stated in the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency Collegiate Board Resolution No. 429, from October 8, 2020, and in the Normative Instruction No. 75, from October 8, 2020, which define the new food nutritional labeling regulation, that is in force since October, 2022. As the regulation states, the nutritional information table is optional in alcoholic beverages - it is sufficient to inform merely the total energy value. The new front-of-package labeling adopted in Brazil, which includes a magnifying glass on the front of the package of food products that contain a high amount of added sugar, sodium, and/or fat, is not applied to alcoholic beverages. Thus, in Beats’ case, the consumers will only know that the product contains added sugar if they read very carefully the list of ingredients, but there is no way to know the total amount.
Even if consumers do not know if Beats contain added sugar or not, in the Carnival of 2022 the brand announced the release of “On By Beats”, a cereal bar able to reduce the alcohol absorption by the body in up to 20%, to compensate for a possible excess of consumption. Thus, Ambev can sell two products at once: a product that intoxicates and another one to “de-intoxicate”. It is a perfect match between Big Alcohol and Big Food.
Considering the new products released by the giants of the sector, it will come as no surprise if alcoholic beverages without alcohol, but with added sugar - or would they be only sugary drinks? - appear, promising an infinity of functional effects to give consumers more energy, happiness, awesomeness, balance, and a multitude of other elements that will turn them into superheroines in Eden. Back to Earth, if alcoholic beverages without alcohol and with added sugar are indeed released, would they be exempt from the nutritional labeling regulation? We must wait and see, and keep monitoring the future of these drinks.
From tobacco to alcohol: the power of additives to addict new consumers
By Mariana Pinho and Victória Rabetim
As if the plethora of food additives in ultra-processed products that invade the shelves of supermarkets and the tobacco additives used to attract young people to smoking were not enough, there are also flavor additives in alcoholic beverages.
Flavored alcoholic beverages were first released around 1980, including Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Silver, among others, which are a mix of alcohol and flavorings. Before that, traditional beers, wine, and spirits were the most common alcoholic beverages.
Flavor and aroma additives have a very clear role: they are used to attract consumers and promote experimentation. In other words, they are products designed to encourage young people to become regular drinkers. Moreover, they are a marketing strategy, as the flavors added are always exhibited in the package - and the package is definitely an important marketing element that influences the purchase decision process.